Hiring sales professionals is always challenging. Most candidates seem qualified for your open position, particularly if they are given the opportunity to sell themselves face-to-face or over the phone. Without a distinct framework as a reference point, it's easy to misjudge a candidate's qualifications for the job, particularly in a sales role where qualifications are not as objective as they are for an engineer or an accountant. Defining the requirements for your open sales position before you begin to screen candidates will exponentially improve your screening efforts. These ten tips will help you define your open role in order optimize your sales recruiting process, weed out candidates that aren't a fit, and ensure that you find the best possible candidate for the job.
1. Define Success: Begin with a simple overview of your own sales process and current sales team. What defines success for them? What motivates success within your company? Thinking along these lines will allow you to screen out candidates whose definitions of success are incompatible with yours; for example, if your sales team prides itself on its outstanding ability to meet customer needs, you may not want to hire a candidate who defines success solely by his commissions.
2. The Value Proposition: For this role, how important is the articulation of your value proposition? Is your value proposition easily understood or must it be explained in depth? What backgrounds produce candidates that adapt well to your value proposition? These subtle details allow you to look for common threads that can govern your resume screening process.
3. The Buyer: Whom do you sell to? Who are the relevant decision makers? How crucial is a deep understanding of your buyer's industry for this position? Is the candidate expected to have sold to these decision makers in the past? Is he or she expected to have a book of business? Defining your expectations for the candidate's understanding of the buyer allows you to eliminate many potential candidates.
4. Product & Product Complexity: Is your sale consultative or transactional? How many products will this hire sell? To what degree can the product be customized and what technical knowledge is required for that customization? What products should the ideal candidate have sold in the past? Product-specific experience can be an important consideration in your screening process, but keep in mind that candidates outside your industry who have sold to similar decision makers may also be a fit.
5. Client Relationship Dynamics: To what extent does the prospect share information with your sales representatives? Is the intended relationship with the client a full partnership, a semi-customized product, or a transaction? While screening candidates, try to uncover experience that indicates that they will be successful in your company's buyer-seller dynamics.
6. Sales Process Metrics: What metrics define success for this position? Whether it's number of cold calls per day, average deal size, or number of deals concurrently in the pipeline, how do you measure you current sales team? Of those metrics, what would be considered average and what would be outstanding? How do you expect this hire to be performing at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years? Defining these expectations up front will quickly show which candidates simply won't measure up.
7. Environment, Infrastructure, & Culture: Does your company offer training? Is it a nature or nurture environment? How would you define your team dynamics? How is your management team structured? What tools and support are offered for this position? Though often the most overlooked aspect of sales hiring, environment can be the most crucial. While the best salespeople are often outliers, it's important to hire someone that will be a great fit with your company's culture and support systems.
8. Sales Team, Process, & Activities: What's the most important part of your sales process? Where do your company's leads come from? How are they qualified? What happens after a salesperson lands an account? Which activities occupy most of your sales team's time and why? Where do you expect this hire to focus most of his or her time? Many sales hires fail due to miscommunication about the sales process. Ask candidates about their specific activities to uncover hidden expectations; for example "what's the first thing you do after hanging up the phone with a prospect?"
9. Territory, Quota & Compensation: How much travel is required? How are territories defined? What are the on-target earnings for the first two years? How do they break down in terms of base salary, commissions, bonuses, and equity? While these attributes create an objective filter, take care not to eliminate under-qualified candidates; good sales professionals should always be looking for a step up in territory, quota, and compensation, not a step sideways.
10. Company Selling Points & Other: What's the best part of working for your company? What attracts people to your firm? What does a candidate need to understand about your strategy, history, and future and why? Why should any candidate choose your position over any other? Highlighting the best parts of your open position will help you cast a wide net to attract a diverse pool of both passive and active candidates.
Though this exercise can seem tedious, the success of your sales hire depends on your ability to define the position. This exercise should yield eight to fifteen concrete attributes to govern your phone, resume, and interview screenings. Keep in mind that it's always better to begin your screening process with as many candidates as possible and eliminate as many as possible against the eight to fifteen most important attributes for this role. Good luck with your screening!
About the Author:
Lauren Gilchrist is Business Analyst at Urgent Career, which helps growing companies across the country find top-performing sales professionals via a performance-based hiring model.